Lakshmi: The mere utterance of the words “Perumal Theertham” conjures up memories of my Thatha (grandfather) performing the Aradhanai (puja) daily. Each summer holiday as a child I would wake up to a morning filled with the wetness of Madi Thuni (clothes) hanging in the backyard, the smell of freshly ground spices, the waft of sandalwood and the fast rhythmic chanting of my Thatha.
While Paatti and Kollu Paatti were busy cooking the neivedyam, I’d rush to get a fresh bath and stand in line with the other kids for the delicious prasaadam my Thatha would distribute after his prayers – three udhrini (spoon) theertham (water), three udhrini milk, a few pieces of kalkandu (sugar candy) and a couple of tulsi leaves.
My favourite of course to this date is perumal theertham – its heaven conjured up with water and a few flavorings, one of them being Saffron.
Perumal Theertham (Divine Water)
- Drinking Water – 1 Glass
- Cardamom – 3 pods
- Saffron – 1 tsp
- Tulsi Leaves – 1 or 2
- A pinch of pachai karpooram.
Pound the cardamom and dissolve along with saffron into the water in a Silver Pela (Glass). Add Tulsi leaves.
Update: A pinch of Paccha Karpooram or Edible Camphor can also be added to the Theertham for flavouring. Thanks Rajeshwari and Nirmala for reminding us about this. In Kovils (temples) praasadams of the sweet kind are usually flavoured with Edible Camphor. For example Akkaravadesil, the rice pudding served in South Indian Vaishnava temples or Pachamrutham served in Ayyappan temples as Asha has pointed out. We usually skip the Paccha Karpooram.
Latha: Kalkandu or Sugar Candy lends a heavenly taste to this Rice Pudding. This is prepared for most of the Iyengar festivals and in Perumal Kovils. Saffron lends the Pongal a beautiful peachish tinge to the Pongal.
Kalkandu Pongal (Sugar Candy Rice Pudding)
- Rice – 1 cup
- Moong Dal – ¼ cup
- Milk – ½ litre
- Kalkandu (Sugar Candy/ Rock Sugar) – 1 ½ cups
- Cardamom – 6 nos
- Saffron – 10 to 12 leaves
- Ghee – 1/3 cup
- Cashew – 4 tbsp (or more)
- Dry Grapes – 4tbsp (or more)
*cup = 225ml measures approximately 8oz. Arakapadi is one of the many traditional measures used in Tamil Nadu. Most cup measures translate into Arakapadi measures.
- Wash Rice and Dal and pressure cook together with 3 cups of water.
- Take out the Rice and Dal and mash using 2 tbsp Ghee. Transfer to a heavy bottomed pan.
- Add ½ litre milk and cook on low fire. Add the Sugar Candy and keep cooking on a low to medium fire stirring occassionally for approximately 5 minutes. The Pongal will now be in a semi solid state – it will become thicker as it cools.
- Crush the Cardamom and add to Pongal. Mix well and transfer to a serving dish.
- Dissolve the Saffron with 1 tbsp lukewarm milk.
- Toast the Cashew and Dry Grapes separately with the remaining ghee in a Kadai.
- Decorate the Pongal with Cashew and Dry Grapes and Saffron Milk.
Serve Hot or Chilled.
– Latha and Lakshmi